During last week’s trip by the President to China, the 24-hour media seemed all to ready to pronounce it a failure based on their own evidence that Obama had not changed the entire US-China relationship in a matter of minutes. It was maybe the worst example of split-second journalism and ridiculous expectations in the Obama era, and James Fallows, the Atlantic writer who lives in China, did an excellent job of excoriating the media for its shallow, shoddy reporting. A week later, there is actually verifiable evidence that the China trip produced something of value. Yesterday Fallows ticked off the multiple signals:
• China announced a 40-45% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, relative to their economic size, as their contribution to global climate talks. Their Prime Minister will travel to Copenhagen for global climate talks, and while the announced cut in carbon intensity could be better, this is their first stated pledge of this kind.
• China now backs US policy on Iran.
• China is considering pulling some of its missiles in South China, which could advance peace talks with the Taiwanese.
• China envoys are meeting with the North Koreans.
• China may end the freeze on its currency value, according to the Vice-Foreign Minister.
That encompasses virtually everything on the President’s China agenda.
The China trip ended a whole nine days ago, so it’s just unrealistic to expect anyone in Washington to revisit it. But this does exemplify how the White House press corps can get locked into a narrative – an uninformed one at that – and never correct the record, despite evidence to the contrary. Clearly Obama’s version of diplomacy doesn’t match with the media need for a big signing ceremony to indicate in fat, bold letters that SOMETHING HAPPENED. He visited China to meet with an important partner and encourage progress on a variety of issues. And that’s taking place.